• Stephen Baines

How To Visualise Your Way To Success

Visualization is something that can be somewhat controversial. Visualizing goals is one of the most common tips alongside ‘living your dreams’ but just like that statement, it’s a little oversimplified. Because according to research, in some instances, visualization can actually reduce your likelihood of success.

Visualising our goals may make us feel as though we have already accomplished whatever it is we’re setting out to achieve. It allows us to rest on our laurels that bit more. At the same time, visualizing can often be too abstract, too vague and too flaky to be of any real use. People who daydream about doing what they want – according to research – often don’t actually make those goals a reality. They remain a dream.

But that’s not to say that visualization is useless. It’s just a matter of understanding how to use it as a tool and how to not allow it to take over.

What is Visualization? And How it Helps With CBT and The Law of Attraction

Perhaps a good way to start here would be by looking at precisely what visualization is. We’re going to look at that here, as well as at how visualization can actually be combined with CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) techniques in order to achieve even more powerful outcomes.

Visualization techniques involve using your mind’s eye to picture the future you want to live. When you do this, you are causing areas in your brain to fire as though you were really experiencing that future. For example, when you picture walking through woodland, areas relating to movement will fire, as will areas in your visual cortex (V1). Of course, they fire less than if that thing were actually happening but on the whole, the experience is similar. Hence its value.

This, therefore, means that when you visualize something, your brain effectively thinks that to some degree it is already happening. And this is why visualization can be such a potent tool when it comes to confidence, motivation and sticking with a goal. CBT, as a school of psychology, revolves around attempting to change our thought processes in order to help us accomplish more and overcome obstacles. Thus visualisation is a very useful technique.

It means looking at limiting beliefs. Beliefs that we all have such as "‘I’ve never been very good", or "I'm going to get caught out" or even "I can't". When looking at them, we challenge them with evidence to dismiss those beliefs before replacing them for more positive statements. Statements such as "I am very good at what I do", "I have a powerful skillset" or even "I will". This helps motivate us more towards achieving our goals.

We can likewise accomplish the same with visualization, only now we’ll be able to visualize specific goals and feel like they’re already happening. When you visualize being a billionaire, your brain will temporarily feel as though you are a billionaire. And if you believe this, even temporarily, then you’ll find your chances of actually becoming that thing increase thanks to the ‘law of attraction’. The law of attraction states that when we believe ourselves to be a certain way, we tend to become that thing because of the way it changes our presentation and our actions.

When you believe that you’re an incredibly savvy businessman or woman, you start to be more confident in interviews, you take more positive risks in investments and you walk taller. You’ll even dress more professionally and people will sit up and take notice of that – which will ultimately lead to you being more likely to get the promotions and the responsibility you need to thrive.

There is a simple personal story here. Shortly after starting my consulting career, I decided I wanted a new car. A Mini Cooper to be exact. I was debating whether to purchase it or not. Weighing up the pros and cons. After first looking online a number of weeks went by. Throughout those few weeks, I regularly saw Mini Cooper's, everywhere. It was like my eyes had been opened to the possibilities of driving a Mini Cooper. This is the power of visualisation, albeit unintended visualisation, as linked to the 'law of attraction'. In the end, I bought a Mini Cooper. A story for a different post was also my vision board where after 5-6 years I have almost completed it.

Remember. Visualize. Believe. And make it happen!

More Practical Uses for Visualization

The other practical use of visualization is in creating that mission statement. Your purpose. If you’ve had difficulty identifying the things that make you passionate, then try closing your eyes for a moment and visualizing your perfect future.

  • Imagine yourself 10-20 years from now.

  • Where do you want to be?

  • Where do you live?

  • What’s your house like?

  • Do you have a family?

  • What is your job?

Some people will picture a quiet little cottage for them and their family. Some will find themselves relaxing around a fire at Christmas playing board games with their children. Others will picture themselves travelling the world. Or they’ll see themselves in a professional-looking suite, standing in a high rise building looking over the cityscape below.

Whatever the case, it is easy for most of us to conjure up the possible ideal future that would make us happiest. And it’s from this abstract set of ideas that we can then go about creating more concrete goals and strategies. We can also draw on our memories for this. If you’re struggling to come up with a perfect future, then how about digging into your perfect past?

  • What are your happiest memories?

  • What were your proudest moments?

By remembering this, you can identify the things that might make you happiest in future.

Another way to use visualization is in ‘counterfactual simulation’. This means imagining possible futures and thinking about all the things that you can do to make them happen, or avoid them going wrong. This is also a great way to test-run ideas for your future. Thinking about being a rock star? Then take a moment to consider what that would actually mean. Visualize it and go through each step: is it really for you?

You would be in the public eye, you’d be rich, you’d be constantly travelling, it would be harder to have a family, you’d have to perform in front of thousands, people would consider you highly successful.

There’s good and bad there depending on who you are, so actually, picture that future, run it through in your mind, think of every contingency and then decide if you still think that it is right for you!


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Interested in hearing more about this and related topics? Follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter (@_Baines & @BeTranquilLed), and Instagram (@BeTranquilLed) where I regularly post insights relating to Health, Wellness, Mindfulness, Leadership & Innovation. Note that all views are my own

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